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Match Reports

Match Report: Bristol Rovers 3-0 Plymouth Argyle

12 December 2020

Rovers record three points at the Mem against Argyle, with a 3-0 victory over the Pilgrims.

A third win in seven days for Paul Tisdale’s side came thanks to first-half goals from Alfie Kilgour and Luke McCormick and a late Zain Westbrooke goal.

A smart corner routine in opening ten minutes, saw McCormick deliver a temping delivery into the area, where Kilgour was on hand to power home a header.

Ed Upson almost added a second goal for Rovers in the first half, with his attempt from inside the penalty area deflected onto the upright.

McCormick turned from provider to scorer for Rovers’ second goal, with his volley from a corner finding the bottom corner.

Just ahead of half time, van Stappershoef made two impressive stops to keep out headers from both Hardie and Aimson.

Hanlan went close to adding a third for Rovers in the final 45 minutes, placing a low effort just the wide of the upright after he was played in on goal by Nicholson.

The expected late pressure from the Pilgrims was handled well by Rovers, with Zain Westbrooke adding a third goal late on, to help record back-to-back league games for the first time since October.

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Ahead of kick-off, Rovers made two enforced changes to their starting XI.

Both Jaakkola and Oztumer were forced out of contention through injury, with van Stappershoef deputising in goal and Luke McCormick included to replace Oztumer.

The change in goal saw Liam Armstrong included amongst the substitutes, with Josh Hare, Ali Koiki, Cam Hargreaves, Josh Barrett and Jonah Aynunga all options to call from the bench.

Plymouth also made two changes to their side that faced Shrewsbury last week. Ben Reeves replaced the suspended Danny Mayor, while Ryan Hardie was also drafted in, leading the line with Luke Jephcott.

On the Argyle bench, two former Rovers players featured, with Byron Moore and Dom Telford both on the teamsheet.

Early on in the contest, it was Rovers who stamped an early authority on the game. An impactful run from Josh Grant carved open the Plymouth defence, with the midfielder breaking forward to the edge of the area. With various options ahead, Grant fired a low cross into the goalmouth that was plucked away.

At the other, Argyle had an early opening of their own. Ryan Hardie chased down a hopeful ball over the top and managed to muscle his way onto the ball, taking a touch to take him through on goal. With van Stappershoef to beat, the forward dragged a low effort harmlessly wide of the Rovers goal.

Despite the game lacking the atmosphere of a packed out crowd at the Mem, the tempo of the early stages was certainly lively.

With chances at both ends, it felt like the wait for the game’s first goal wasn’t going to be a lengthy one.

When the first goal arrived in the 6th minute, it went the way of Rovers, who marked a strong start by registering the opening goal. McCormick’s corner from the left was perfectly weighted and played into a threatening area, as Alfie Kilgour timed his run to plant a bullet header beyond Cooper give Rovers the perfect start.

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The Gas took a boost from Kilgour’s goal and very nearly doubled their advantage five minutes later. Ed Upson ventured on a twisting run into the Plymouth area, riding two challenges before slotting a side-footed attempt towards goal which took a slight deflection of a stray leg inside the area and was enough to see the effort bounce back off the upright.

Kilgour, who made his first Rovers start against Plymouth at Home Park back March 2019, almost scored again, in exact circumstances to his first goal. The defender once again lost his marker to connect with a header from a corner, but saw his effort deflected clear inside the six-yard area.

Rovers had a firm grip of the momentum in the contest and looked a threat each time they sparked an attack. Zain Westbrooke was prevented from scoring from close-range by a smart reaction stop by Cooper, who somehow got a vital touch to tip the midfielder’s effort from yards out around the post.

The all-important second goal came in the 26th minute. Rovers got their reward for all the attacking play by scoring their second goal from a corner. McCormick and Westbrooke stood over the corner from the left, with McCormick peeling away to make a late run into the area. The decision from the Chelsea loanee paid off, as the reacted the quickest to a bouncing ball inside the area and place a handy volley into the far corner to open his account for the Gas.

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With Rovers on the front foot, it was a relatively quiet half for van Stappershoef. The ‘keeper made an assured stop an effort from Reeves that was struck with intent from the edge area.

The away side mustered a string of late first-half chances to reduce Rovers’ lead before the interval. Ryan Hardie clipped a ball into the path of Jephcott, who in turn, advanced towards goal and directed a low effort wide.

Van Stappershoef also produced an impressive stop down to his right, to push wide a header from Aimson and followed that save up with an even more impressive stop to tip a Ryan Hardie header over the crossbar, with Rovers holding a two-goal lead at the interval.

The visitors made two changes at half time, with Byron Moore and George Cooper introduced.

Hardie, who looked a threat from crosses for Argyle, nodded a header over the target for the visitors in the minutes that followed the interval.

Rovers went close to adding a third goal in spectacular fashion, as Ed Upson lined up a volley from 25-yards out that strayed fractionally wide of the target.

As the hour mark passed, the game still had an open and buoyant tempo.

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Sam Nicholson’s direct forward drafted space for Hanlan to exploit, as the winger managed to thread a perfectly weighted through ball for the forward to run onto. Hanlan took a touch to narrow the angle on goal and kept his balance to hit a low effort that bounced across goal and bobbled inches wide of the upright.

With a two-goal cushion, the Rovers defence still had to be alert to the threat the Pilgrims possessed on the break. A cross into the area from Cooper landed at the feet of Hardie, who immediately swung a snapshot towards goal that van Stappershoef held at the near post.

Chasing the game, the final twenty minutes saw the visitors hold a sustained spell of pressure in the Rovers final third, but resolute Rovers defending limited any clear cut openings on goal.

Jonah Ayunga replaced Brandon Hanlan, with Ayunga making his first appearance in the league since September, marking his full return from injury.

The final ten minutes the security of a third goal was added, as Nicholson cut back across the area was converted by Zain Westbrooke.

Rovers head back to London in midweek, facing Charlton Athletic at the Valley (7:45pm KO).

Rovers: Jordi van Stappershoef (G), Luke Leahy, Max Ehmer ©, Jack Baldwin, Alfie Kilgour, Ed Upson (90+2' Josh Barrett, Zain Westbrooke, Josh Grant, Luke McCormick (76' Cam Hargreaves), Sam Nicholson, Brandon Hanlan (74' Jonah Ayunga).

Subs unused: Liam Armstrong, Cian Harries, Josh Hare, Ali Koiki,

Plymouth Argyle: Mike Cooper (G), Kelland Watts, Will Aimson, Joe Edwards © (45’ George Cooper), Ryan Hardie, Ben Reeves (45’ Byron Moore), Conor Grant (83' Frank Nouble), Tyrese Fornah (83' Lewis MacLeod), Jerome Opoku, Periera Camara, Luke Jephcott (63' Dom Telford).

Subs unused: Luke McCormick (G), Scott Wooton.


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